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Should autistic children be mainstreamed?
(note: this paper is referring to diagnosed autistic individuals)
"I'm a normal kid trapped in a body I can't control." -Carly Fleischmann. Envision you desperately want help with a puzzle, but you can't ask for help. Imagine people staring at you because you screeched in frustration. Visualize you know the answer to a hard question, but you can't answer because no one would understand your speech. Some people believe kids with autism should be mainstreamed, others do not. Autism is a genetic mutation which disables the part of the brain that helps a person communicate and socially interact. "I'm not a disease, don’t try to cure me , try to understand me." - The Autism Society .
Autism was first labeled in 1943 by Leo Kanner (Ballaro and Griswold 4). The word 'autism' is taken from the two Greek words 'autos' meaning himself and 'aute' meaning herself with '-ism' meaning a state of . In 1944 Hans Asperger was studying a group of high-functioning autistic children (high functioning autism is also known as Asperger's syndrome) and realized some of them were exceptionally gifted/talented. Sadly though, Han's findings weren't found for about fifty years, mainly because they weren't written in English (Ballaro and Griswold 3).
10-15% of autistic people have an above average intelligence (Ballaro and Griswold 6) Many autistic people have a photographic memory. There is a man who can fly across a city, then by memory, draw exactly what he saw. Everything to the last detail the people, cars, and buildings. Some autistic people can listen to a song they've never heard before and they can play the song exactly on an instrument of their choice. Many autistic people express themselves
through some form of art. "A body with autism is not ignoring you they are simply waiting for you to enter their world."- Unknown. Some autistic kids can tell you dates and times of their interest. Also they know when your trying to trick them. For example, teacher/ parent," What happened on February 30th 1990 ?" autistic individual," That is not a date, therefore nothing happened." That’s just how some autistic brains function.
In general, boys are four times more likely to be affected than girls. In 1960 one in every two-thousand-five-hundred kids were diagnosed with autism. It was discovered in 2005 that 10-15% of autistic kids had an above average intelligence. During 2007 one in every one-hundred-fifty kids were diagnosed (Ballaro and Griswold 2). In 2009 one in every one-hundred-ten kids were diagnosed: boys one in every fifty-four, girls one in every two-hundred-two. In 2012 one in every eighty-eight, and presently it's one child in every sixty-four( Delthia 1-2).
The EAHCA (Education for All Handicapped Children Act) was issued in 1975. P.L. 94-142. EAHCA was renamed IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) in 1990. Within the law 94-142 it states all disabled children must have an appropriate education in the LRE (least Restrictive Environment). An IEP (Individualized Education Program ) must be assessed within the IDEA. FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) requires all special needs children who need to be in the special needs program receive it. One of the most important parts of FAPE is the IEP. The IEP must be in effect at the beginning of the school year and reviewed annually. The LRE states that disabled students are to be educated among their peers until the nature of their disability becomes either too much of a distraction or becomes violent (The Law and Special Education).
How are general education teachers prepared for autistic individuals to enter their classrooms? In interviews with Marshall Middle School teachers, they responded with similar answers. There are many strategies the teachers use. Usually there is a para-professional in the room, but sometimes general education teachers must step in. Some regular-ed teachers will take workshops about autism for further knowledge. Others will go to the special education teacher. Most general-ed teachers agree that children with autism should be mainstreamed. Most are in favor to have autistic students in their classrooms. Those who are willing to allow kids with autism to participate in their classrooms are open minded and kind hearted. They realize all kids learn at their own pace and through different methods.
In 2009, robots came in effect with autistic children. It was discovered that the part of the autistic brain which distinguishes biological and nonliving things does not function properly. Biological things have many facial expressions , lots of body language, and many tones of vocal emotion. This is hard for autistic people to follow and comprehend. Robots, on the other hand, have limited expression, movements, and tone. Some autistic individuals are more likely to interact with robots/nonliving objects than biological beings (Ballaro and Griswold 5)
"Autism isn't contagious but a smile is."-Grumpy Cat. regular-ed peers play a big part in an autistic child's education. When general-ed peers set good examples, it benefits both autistic and general-ed students. The autistic individual may observe socially acceptable behavior skills such as the following: eye-contact, sitting still, responding appropriately, and patience. It allows autistic kids to interact and befriend the general-ed population through class activities or maybe a general-ed student become comfortable comes up and says hello. Also
general-ed students may learn to accept differences/disabilities. Many teachers, parents, and even some students believe autistic students should be mainstreamed.
Even though there are many good things to inclusion there is a down side. If an autistic individual "acts out" they may be a distraction to the other students. Which can shift the general-ed students attention to that instead of the lesson. General-ed students may even provoke the autistic student to misbehave. Also in the mainstream classroom the autistic individual may be an easy target for bullying. (NKA) 46.3% of autistic kids are bullied in school, nearly half! Autistic students may even pick up bad skills such as swearing, showing defiance, and being rude. Some general-ed students may even be frightened or uneasy with their the lack of knowledge and acceptance."People fear what they don’t understand." - Andrew Smith.
Nearly half (46.3% in 2012) of autistic kids are victims of bullying. One article headline read Dad sends autistic son to school wearing wire, records teacher bullying (NKA). Sadly bullying of autistic students is not uncommon. They are bullied even if they show no reaction which is what most bullies are looking for. Most people agree there is no reason to bully these children. They are people just like you and me. There is not really a point in bullying, whether the victim has autism or not. More and more of the general-ed population are becoming aware of the bullying and some are even trying to stop it. Some are even befriending autistic students. Its making a difference, autistic student are responding to not only their paras but also their peers. Sadly though the percentage of bullied autistic kids has risen to a scary 64%. Also the kids who befriended the autistic kids are being targeted. Names are being tossed around as if there harmless; "freak", "weirdo", and "strange" are just a few of them(Nearly half of teens with Autism are victims of bullying 2).
In regards to education. In 2012 one in every sixty-seven school aged kids were diagnosed. The educational definition of autism is: Autism is a developmental delay affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social skills, which affects ones education performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are repetitive actions, stereotypical movements(such as hand flapping, teeth grinding, toe walking, and rocking) , resistance to change, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.
Who influences choices for diagnosed autistic children in school? Parents, teachers, school board, principal, special education teacher, and the school psychologist. This group of people will record behavior indicators through at least two of the following methods: interviews with parents, autism checklists, communication rating scales, developmental rating
scales, function behavior assessments, or intellectual testing (Minnesota Department of Education/ ASD form) .
When I started this paper I felt that kids with autism should be mainstreamed. Now my belief has grown stronger. I don’t see why they shouldn’t be included. In my opinion they are just like you and me, I mean when you look at someone with autism you still see a person right? So why would you treat them differently? " Always Unique Totally Intelligent Sometimes Mysterious." -Unknown.